Back in the glory days of SCTV, one of Martin Short’s gem-like offerings was a unforgivingly accurate parody of Jerry Lewis. Not the wailing, adenoidal, “LaaAAAAAAdy!” Jerry of the 50s, but the lachrymose, lanolin-haired, latter day Jerry, the one who haunted TV variety programs and the Merv Griffin Show, and seemed to stalk the land like a dark spectre in aviator glasses and a stale-looking tux. Short relentlessly hammered home every detail — the steamroller solipsism, the weepy, braying song stylings, the shtick that was both perfunctory and needy — until it seemed less like an impression and more like an assassination.
Then, a decade and a half later, I saw Short hosting some evening of female comics on basic cable, and he was doing the same type of tired, hacky shtick — mugging, pratfalling, and hawking up lame gags with all the care and craft of a loogie. And it dawned on me: sooner or later, we become the thing we parody. Which seems to be what’s happening to the lions of the wingnut bloggotocracy.
For years (going all the way back to the Reagan administration for some of them) rightwing pundits have been mocking the shibboleths of the left, railing against “sensitivity” (which somehow manages to be both a sign of weakness and a tool of totalitarianism at the same time, and which can cover everything from school regulations against bullying, to actual–gasp!– informed commentary about the Middle East, to corporate rules against Bill O’Reilly sexually harrassing people) or the musty, “do your own thing”-style hippie tropes that they seem to think are on the lips of every placard-waving anti-war activist. And now karma (not quite Instant Karma, but pretty damn close) has caught up to them, and they find themselves reduced to delivering the same rhetorical jabs over and over again like a Rhode Island Red dutifully squatting over her nest to deliver the daily speckled brown.
The rightwing luminaries of the blogosphere like to point out, ad nauseum, that liberals are bereft of ideas, or captive to discredited policies like progressive taxation, balanced budgets, or Communism. And yet, speaking as one who is not averse to grabbing a Wiffle bat and whacking at the lowest of low-hanging fruit, the easiest people to parody are invariably the most mannered, lazy, and predictable (“Can I get a HEH! Ho! Can I get an INDEED! Ho!) The contestants in our first annual Write Like a Wingnut contests are all smart, funny, talented people, and one of the things that made this such a difficult challenge is that nowadays, most wingnuts seem to come with a Self-Parody setting. The bloviations of the Malkins, Coulters, Hannitys, et al are the literary equivalent of Scrubbing Bubbles — they lampoon themselves, so you don’t have to.
Actually, when s.z. announced the contest, I figured we’d be inundatedwith faux-Coulter pieces, but most people didn’t bother. Perhaps because Ann’s act is rapidly coming to resemble the 70s-era Jerry Lewis–we know all the jokes before she even opens her mouth. More and more, her columns seem less like they’re written, and more like they’re assembled . Like Mad-Libs. Plug in the words liberal, terrorist, traitor, homosexual, and the untrustworthy or undeserving ethnic groupde jour, and you’ve got her next speech to the College Republicans. In order to stay even inches ahead of her parodists she’s had to start openingly calling for the death of her political enemies, which takes her out of the realm of TV talking heads and makes her, basically, Saddam Hussein with a smaller following and a bigger sack.
All of which is a painfully roundabout way of saying that if feels like something may be about to change; as though Instapundit and Roger Simon and Little Green Footballs and Hugh Hewitt are all headlining on the Keith-Orpheum Vaudeville circuit, and living the high life, but it’s October 6, 1927, and The Jazz Singer just opened down the street. Which isn’t to say they’re about to go the way of the dinosaur–Jerry was still packing them into Vegas only a few of years ago–but it doesn’t really seem as though they’re poised to sweep the nation with a 20-year old act that’s even beginning to bore Branson. Of course, I’ve been wrong before, but I’d still recommend that at the very least they hit a few Open Mikes around town and try out some new material.
And as for the intentional parodies we’ve been enjoying for the past few days, kudos to our contestants , all of whom managed impersonations that were both hilarious and mildly nauseating. It seems, though, that the People have spoken, and this year’s favorite is Neil Cavuto-manqu�Simon Waugh. To quote commenter A cranny mint: “May his oil continue to soften and crisp.”
Congratulations, Simon, we hereby crown you Miss Write Like A Wingnut 2006! Click on the Contact link at the top of the page and tell us where you’d like us to send your Wo’C mug, or just wait until Michelle Malkin posts your name, address and phone number.
Posted by scott on Wednesday, May 10th, 2006 at 11:05 pm.